Columnist Stephanie Hudak on March’s garden chores • Stephanie Hudak, gardening columnist
Well good grief, here it is March already. As I drove through Madison I saw forsythia in full bloom, flowering almond trees nearly finished, and daffodils in total glory. But why am I so surprised; the weather has been going through four different seasons in the same month. While all of these early bloomers are presenting themselves and we are getting excited about putting out our seeds and seedlings, let’s take time to enjoy what nature is giving us at its natural time.
Lenten roses– yes, they tend to tuck their pretty flower heads under the leaves but they don’t need to shout their names to be winners in your garden. Drought resistance, deer-resistant, and evergreen, what else do they need to do to be part of your shade garden. And they can even take a good amount of sun if you keep them watered. The species don’t need to be touted any more than that, but let me tell you about some of the new cultivars that are strutting their stuff: the Gold Series. Wow… they have big, beautiful flowers that actually hold themselves up above the leaves, and they come in different colors. And if you don’t have a daphne odora you need to get one. This incredibly fragrant plant has a reputation of being difficult to grow, but I know someone who has several bushes growing in near neglect and whacked back every spring, yet they produce flowers that you can smell from yards away. And I swear that I smelled a winter honeysuckle in the parking lot where the new Goodwill store is located.
But here we are in March with the chores of the month. (Yuck! Chores!) Regardless of what the weatherman tells us, resist the urge to sow those seeds in open ground. Frosty days are still ahead of us. But you can divide those perennials and most certainly get trees and shrubs planted. Pruning can be done on any of those spring bloomers after you have enjoyed their flowers, but prune before flowering for shrubs that blossom on the current season’s wood. As I said last month, resist the urge to prune those conifers until new growth starts. Mine are so big that I want to just dig them all up and start over, but that can be done any time! I can’t believe that any of us have cool season grasses here in Madison, but if you do, you can go ahead and fertilize them. And by the way, make sure that you keep any grasses several inches away from the trunks of trees to prevent damage to the trunks. The life-giving energy for trees is maintained in those outer edges. When mowers or trimmers damage that bark, less food is able to get to the branches and leaves. It is also important to keep your mulch of choice a couple of inches away from the trunks to prevent fungus or critters from getting into them.
Are you feeding your compost bins? There are still lots of leaves at the curbsides. You just have to get ahead of the city trucks. Master Composter Jeff Johnson tells me that he always has large trash bags in his vehicle so that he doesn’t miss those great opportunities. Unfortunately I did miss my chance and drove up to an awesome pile just as it was being whisked away. But as a reminder, don’t put diseased clippings or weeds with seed heads into the bin. Instead, put very expensive vegetables from your refrigerator that you neglected to use into it. No, wait I don’t think that is good advice, but hey, I’m going to have some great compost that I can use to grow vegetables that I won’t eat. Hmm, what’s wrong with this story.
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Printed in the March 7, 2013 edition